Investigating the use of wearable technology in healthcare

Investigating the use of wearable technology in healthcare

Professor Ravinder Dahiya is an IEEE Fellow and Professor of Electronics and Nanoengineering, University of Glasgow. He discusses the increasing importance of wearable technology.

The COVID-19 epidemic has created a greater demand for tech devices. Accessing care in person is more difficult for those most in need, such as the elderly and the socioeconomically disadvantaged. Due to the pandemic, wearable technology devices are becoming more popular. They allow users to be more cautious and prevent the spread COVID-19 virus.

These devices can also be used to manage long-term effects of COVID-19. While wearable technology has potential benefits for the healthcare industry, it is still far from being widely adopted. These technologies could be hindered by high costs and the possibility of them appearing untrustworthy, as well as the possibility that they might marginalise certain social groups.

Health Europa sat down with Professor Ravinder Dhiya, an IEEE Fellow and Professor of Electronics and Nanoengineering, at the University of Glasgow to discuss how wearable technology could be used in healthcare and the challenges they face in order to become widely accepted and accepted within the industry.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted the use of wearable tech devices?

Wearable technology devices and robotics will continue to support the increasing demand for remote medical services that are not restricted by time and space. They are able to support senior citizens who have limited mobility and lack access to professional medical care. Remote medical services will continue to grow along with 5G technology which was commercially made available in 2019. It can also expand coverage and provide more location coverage. Remote healthcare delivery has been highlighted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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What can wearable tech devices do to help solve healthcare problems?

Continuous use of intention will ultimately determine the success of wearable technology in healthcare applications and the sector. Technology acceptance or adoption rates are not enough to ensure the success of these technologies. There is currently a lack of research that examines the actual use behavior, health improvement expectancy, as well as continuous intention to use new healthcare devices.

What are your biggest concerns when it comes to developing wearable technology in the healthcare industry? What measures should be taken to protect users’ data, for example?

Attention must be paid to data-related issues. A centralised cloud system is used to store, process and manage data. However, there are two main problems. First, it can take a long time to process data. Second, this data can cause significant network load. The advancement of wearable technology has also made it necessary to improve security and privacy. There is currently no single solution that can address all security threats posed by wearable technology.

Advanced technology can also be viewed with suspicion in certain instances due to cultural and social preferences. Another challenge is the lack of certification or medical-grade wearable tech. Most of today’s wearable technology solutions are designed for wellness.

What are the best precautions for those who use tech devices to monitor their health and wellbeing?

Modern solutions like direct printing sensors on fabric or miniaturized gadgets are now available, even for low-income countries. Robotics in healthcare can pose a challenge due to the high cost of robotic hands. To address these cost-related challenges, additive manufacturing was recently explored.

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What do you think wearable tech devices will become as a standard for healthcare in the future?

Both robotics and wearable tech face the same challenge when it comes to finding an energy source to run their continuous operations, especially when they are being used in low resource environments. Wearables are limited in energy efficiency due to their small size and portability, which means they cannot use large batteries. Energy needs can be addressed by low-power devices and on-board energy harvesting. Wearable devices are getting advanced functionality to allow for new services and new uses. They are however not possible to execute on small and limited resources. In turn, adding more features can lead to increased energy consumption which can often impact the quality of final wearable applications. Energy consumption is therefore a critical challenge in wearable computing.

Ravinder Dhiya IEEE Fellow, Professor of Electronics
and Nanoengineering
University of Glasgow
www.gla.ac.uk

This article appears in Health Europa Quarterly issue 19.

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